Cathy Sproul’s acidic article [“Permanent Vacation,” August/September] on the travel opportunity afforded her teenage “at risk” students in Arizona illustrates why “our schools are failing.” I say this not in agreement with her assessment that [visiting] France and Germany is a waste of time but because of her opinion that the time would be better spent “going over Arizona standards, doing rote drills, and practicing filling in Scantron sheets.”
I am amazed that a quality magazine such as Teacher would even allow space for her disturbing opinion, with its over-the-top and abundant sarcasm. I honestly thought she was kidding, but upon repeated reading realized she actually meant what she wrote. She would seem to imply that at-risk children should stay at home because they are not intelligent enough to appreciate the wonders the world has to offer. How offensive!
Cathy Sproul’s reply: I am delighted that you found my essay “disturbing.” It was written satirically, out of pure frustration. Watch pandering to the rhetoric of increased test scores happen before your very eyes, and see how sarcastic it makes you, especially when it’s the students who pay the price. The current trend toward high-stakes, standardized testing is profoundly damaging in at-risk settings. When you’re teaching kids who are lucky to reach their 16th birthdays without being parents or addicts, you see how much they benefit from being in Europe instead of sitting in classrooms learning often-pointless objectives to pass standardized tests. Finally, for the record, some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met have been “at-risk students.” So I’m happy to report that we’re in agreement; we just have different ways of expressing our shared views.
A version of this article appeared in the September 25, 1996 edition of Education Week as Travel Tips